December 04, 2013

Armstrong helps deliver carbon message to MPs

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin environmental activist Liz Armstrong has taken up a new strategy in her ongoing effort to make a difference in the greenhouse gas debate, travelling to Ottawa to meet with MPs as part of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL).

Concerned about the effects of oil sands development and the risks of associated pipelines, the group is promoting government incentives for a transition to a clean energy economy. They say existing incentives for fossil fuel initiatives should be cancelled, and that consumers should gradually pay more of the true cost of oil.
So we’re back to the debate over a carbon tax, an idea that sparked hostility from voters when the Liberals pitched it back in 2008. The new twist is to make it more palatable by giving all the revenue back to consumers.

CCL is calling it a Carbon Fee and Dividend, in which a tax would be placed on carbon-based fuels at their source (well, mine or port of entry). Companies would pass these costs to customers, resulting in higher fuel prices.

The tax would increase annually so that within 10 years, clean energy would be cheaper than fossil fuels. All of the money collected would be returned equally to all Canadians through tax rebates or “dividends”. Those who use a lot of energy would pay more overall, but CCL estimates that 66% of households would break even or end up with more money.

On November 18, a group of 36 citizen lobbyists went to Parliament Hill and had personal meetings with 25 MPs from various parties. Local MP Michael Chong, who is part of the All-Party Climate Caucus, was not able to meet with them.

Armstrong said people should not be afraid to contact their elected politicians when they have concerns or questions.

“It’s healing the break between people and government. There is a chasm, miles wide. People are cynical. I’ve come to believe that we really do need to engage much more often and in a positive way with politicians. They are the people that we’ve elected to represent us and to do our bidding.”

Consumers need to do much more than buy energy-efficient light bulbs and hybrid cars if they want to make a dent in the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere, she said, just as they need to do more than just vote to be an active member of a democracy.

“Climate change is such a huge issue – it seems overwhelming, because the issue has not really turned any corners. The climate has kept going down – we’re on the same path as we were back in 1989, with probably more greenhouse gases than ever.”

She said Canada is “in a pickle” because of pulling out of the Kyoto climate change agreement, and while the federal government may promise to meet certain targets, it is an “outright prevarication” when the changes are not implemented to make it possible.

“I look for positive things that are happening, but on a very deep level it’s terribly disturbing. When I realized what we’ve set loose in terms of unfettered capitalism that allowed pollution to get out of hand, I thought, western industrialism is driving this whole mess.

“What’s missing is how to engage, especially with politicians, how to sustain the effort and how to maintain your sanity and have fun,” she said.

“More and more people in the world are realizing, that with all these carbon finds, and there have been so many of them with exploration, fracking, and getting to the extreme oil and gas, that we have way more carbon that we could let loose, than the atmosphere can ever take,” she said. “We have to get off fossil fuels. Before they run out, they’ll cook us.”

Anyone who would like more information about the Citizens Climate Lobby is welcome to email: